What have you done with video to assist your writing projects?
I posed this question in two active Facebook author groups. Hardly anyone responded, which led me to three possibilities:
- People don’t like me so much.
- They didn’t comment because they think it’s a lame idea.
- They haven’t done much with video that supports them as writers.
I’m gunning for C) because I want to be liked and don’t think video is a lame idea. It’s my opinion that many authors can benefit with video though it’s still a developing resource.
Now I’ll be the first to admit my videos haven’t received the kind of fanfare I had hoped for. Some barely get watched at all while others get a modest few thousand views on YouTube. I’m no viral sensation, but the results have been encouraging enough to keep going, and in this business that feels closer to swimming than treading water (or sinking).
Should you consider ways to add some video? Maybe, maybe not. If the thought doesn’t cause you to wince, here are the usual suspects for enabling video to bolster your author platform.
I posted a nomination board for Best Indie Book Trailers at my blog and received a ton of response. Unfortunately I saw some the worst videos ever produced, but there were a few gems plus a lot to discuss on the subject. My blog received way more traffic and comments than usual. In fact, this topic would make a good little how-to book, and a quick peek at Amazon just confirmed I’m not the first to think of it.
I also saw videos that looked promising for their mission: to bring more readers to the book. Below is an example of an effective book trailer for fiction. It was made by Samantha Chase for her romance novel, Wait for Me, and was an affordable hire-out project done by Animoto. Samantha says she has no data if it assists sales but likes having it on YouTube.
My advice is to make these things as concise as possible, like 90 seconds or less. If you watch hers you’ll notice she also gets a few links and social media mentions in there, a smart thing to do though an active hyperlink could be added to the description below the video. I think she should also add it to her website, JMO.
Probably the most common video idea is conducting an author interview whether it’s for your own book or another author’s. Google Plus hangouts are great for this since they can become YouTube videos with a few mouse clicks. (Google owns YouTube.) I’ve done plenty of these and while I find them interesting, they don’t tend to gather as many views or blog comments as I anticipate. Exceptions include when you have a big name guest, like the interview I did with Hugh Howey, indie super-star.
An interview that did even better was with Shoshanna Evers, who writes erotica, does it very well and happens to be quite attractive. That got some views? Yes it did, go figure, and probably sold some books too.
One tip I learned was to upload custom thumbnail images to YouTube. You normally get to pick from three standard thumbnail images, which is what displays on screen before the video is played. Those YouTube choices come from set times within the video, but those frames often aren’t quality moments, as in a scrunchy face. But you can upload your own image to use as a thumbnail, and it can be a perfect shot of your guest or another image altogether. If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video with a thumbnail that never appeared during playback, now you know why.
Doesn’t Have to be about Writing
Having a video that attracts viewers for other reasons than your book can interest people in learning more about you. I learned about Dr. Lani Leary this way. I watched her TEDx talk on her career in hospice, dealing with people as they experienced their final days. Not once in the talk did she mention her book, but I found her illuminating and wanted to know more about her topic. I did a little research and discovered she had a book, which I bought and read.
Even videos that are silly family moments but attract viewers can be wise to share. People may watch your video, find you interesting and start clicking from there. Author platform is about planting seeds for networking. Over time the seeds grow into avenues for people to find your book.
Group Topic Discussion
These are similar to author interviews but I like them more. Topics can be on any subject and help people learn.
My topic interviews usually did better when we discussed items most authors deal with: formatting, blogging, KDP Select or any subject the group could discuss, debate, shed light on, etc. More minds in the room bring out more ideas. Again, Google Plus hangouts that become YouTube videos are well-suited for that. The other nice thing about several authors in a production is that they each have an interest in sharing it. We all could post the results to our website or blog and spread the word better. This one on cover design did pretty well.
This is especially smart for non-fiction authors who teach anything, and you don’t need a degree in education as I can attest. My tutorial videos consistently perform better with viewers, blog visitors, comments and sharing. People appreciate it if you’ve helped them learn, and video is a powerful teaching device.
This simple example on the choice between matte or gloss covers at CreateSpace has done much better than I expected and continues to.
Not surprisingly, the video education field has grown in leaps and bounds. Sites like Lynda and Udemy attract millions of users. Another bonus when making how-to videos compared to how-to books is that videos can be made in a matter of weeks while books take much longer and cost more.
My Udemy courses helped me realize the amount of time and money invested compared to the return was not only better for my videos than books, but far better. If you visit the Udemy site, you’ll find thousands of courses for sale and some for free, which might give you ideas for what you could offer.
Again, I don’t claim to be a Spielberg. If people get value from your words or frames then you’ve got something. Many teaching authors use Camtasia for screen capture recording, but I use Screencast-o-matic. It’s powerful, user-friendly and the pro version is super low cost (thank you, Corina Koch MacLeod, for the recommendation). There are other programs of course.
As you may have guessed, I’ve tried quite a few things to build author platform and sell books. Call it entrepreneurial, resourceful, you can even call it desperate because all of those are probably fitting.
The results have shown time and time again that promoting my own stuff directly is less effective than sharing something else, like information that can help others. Having my own stuff nearby in the background, or the sidebar or waiting for a YouTube search helps immensely.
We enjoy good videos, probably because we get a sense of who people are quicker when seeing them in action that just by reading their words. That should be reason alone to get some authors considering more video, especially if they’re charismatic.
Remember also that video search is becoming more common on Google. Add strong keywords to video titles, and you might do better with SEO in video than for a similar effort with a text post.
I’d like to hear your ideas and experiences for video uses for authors. Or if you think it’s a complete waste of time, I’d like to hear that too.
Jason Matthews of eBook Success 4 Free is Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He is also a novelist, blogger and self-publishing coach. He works with writers around the world through every phase of book creation and marketing.